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As a follow-up to my earlier article, Shopping basket best practice from ASOS, I’ve taken a look at the updated ASOS checkout experience. It includes one change which has reduced their checkout abandonment rate by 50%.
The ASOS website delivers an excellent browsing and shopping experience, and I regularly feature examples from the retailer in my e-commerce best practice training courses.
The updated checkout continues this trend, as the earlier version certainly didn’t fit in well with their highly tuned shopping experience up to checkout.
This article will recap on what ASOS is doing well on its shopping basket, look at how it is handling new customer checkout, and the variety of persuasive checkout lessons we can take from them as well as identifying a few areas of improvement.
Why the ASOS shopping bag/basket works so well
To summarise the ASOS shopping bag in one word, it has to be transparency.
As I detailed in my earlier article, whether it is stock availability/reservation period, delivery options, delivery proposition, returns proposition, security measures or available payment options, visitors have immediate access to all this key information from their shopping bag.
This in turn increases the visitor's confidence to proceed to checkout whilst strengthening their intent to complete their purchase.
Straight to bag or stay on product page?
I always recommend to retailers who are looking to encourage visitors to buy multiple products, particularly fashion retailers like ASOS, that when visitors add a product to their bag they shouldn’t automatically be sent to their shopping bag.
Instead, it should be made absolutely clear to the visitor that the product has been added to their bag, and they have an intuitive link to view their bag if they wish. Take a look at Topshop for one of the best examples of this approach.
What this then means is that visitors have to make a conscious decision to visit their shopping bag.
By providing a clear and transparent mini-bag facility that is constantly accessible through the browsing journey, you can safely assume that when visitors decide to view their full shopping bag, they aren’t doing so to check what items they have in their bag or what their order total is. Instead they are pretty intent on ‘checking-out’.
So, when designing shopping baskets, retailers should be focusing their efforts on providing visitors with everything they need to know to confidently move in to the checkout process, with no un-answered questions at the back of their mind.
How ASOS persuades 50% more new customers to checkout
The revised first page of checkout delivers one crucial difference from the previous design. Whereas new customers were told that they had to create an account in order to checkout, the new design mentions absolutely nothing about account creation.
Instead, new customers are asked to simply click the continue button.
ASOS E-commerce Director James Hart has provided me with these insights in to how they achieved this huge improvement:
We didn’t fundamentally change any functionality or page flows at this point. One thing we did change was the login screen after lengthy split testing; the changes resulted in a 50% decrease in abandonment of the site at this page.
The new first page of checkout at ASOS
The previous first page of checkout at ASOS
While moderating user testing sessions on e-commerce sites, one thing I consistently hear from people is their un-willingness to go through an account creation process when they are forced to.
People talk about the number of steps they will have to go through, all the extra information they will have to provide, and the fact they haven’t got time to be creating an account.
What I find most fascinating is the responses I get from people when I ask them ‘what additional information do you expect you will need to provide if you create an account compared to a guest checkout option?’.
When they then actually start to break down the type of information they need to provide to checkout using either option, they are left with just one piece of additional information: choosing a password.
As you will see on the next section ASOS still forces new customers to create an account, yet it simply asks you to provide a password as part of the standard checkout requirements such as contact name and email address.
What is for many retailers a major usability barrier for new customers is turned on its head and simply made to be a 'no-brainer' part of the information entry process.
Persuasive checkout best practice techniques
Below I have highlighted some of the key elements of the ASOS checkout experience that follow best practice and keep visitors focussed on completing their purchase.
The checkout is enclosed
ASOS has for a number of years enclosed the checkout process, and the refined checkout is almost a perfect example of how focused a checkout can be when all distractions for the user are removed.
Security symbol is given prominence to enhance trust & assurance
In addition to the logo and title of the stage of process you are at, the only other information ASOS provides in the checkout header is the security authentication.
This underlines the importance that the retailer places on enhancing feelings of trust and security for visitors, and this is a lesson that many lesser known retailers can learn. If a brand as big and reputable as ASOS is doing this, how important is this approach for smaller retailers?
There is a clearly defined progress indicator
The progress indicator does all the right things:
- The progress indicator isn’t part of a crowded checkout header.
- It is absolutely clear which step you are on.
- The number of steps are clearly defined.
- It is clear that you will have the opportunity to review your order before confirming.
Useful information specific to certain fields is provided
At the side of some of the fields, such as password, email and gender, there is a concise bit of text to answer questions such as ‘why do you need my email address?’, ‘does my password have to contain a number?’ and ‘why do you need to know my gender?’.
This approach should ideally be used for the date of birth field, but I will get to that.
The primary call to action is absolutely clear
On each of the pages in checkout the primary call to action, in most cases continue to the next page, is the most prominent user action.
Whereas as some retailers still have competing calls to action during checkout, ASOS is intent on keeping the visitor focussed on moving through each stage of the process.
A facility to enter your address manually is also provided
One of the expected checkout facilities that users tell me about during e-commerce test sessions is a postcode look-up facility.
For the vast majority of visitors this facility will provide quick and intuitive way to enter their address. It also means that the quality of customer information is improved for the retailer.
A key issue which many postcode look-up facilities have is not providing an option for visitors to enter their address manually.
For reasons such as living on a new housing development and simply knowing that postcode look-up facilities aren’t able to locate your address correctly, a very small percentage of visitors will know that using a postcode look-up facility is pointless.
They should therefore have a simple way to expose the address fields so they can enter their address manually.
The ability to use your billing address for delivery
This is almost standard on most retail sites I am involved in, but it is worth re-iterating this point here. What ASOS also does well is taking the visitor straight to Payment if they choose to use their billing address for their delivery address, therefore providing a positive ‘quicker progress than expected’ experience for visitors.
The alternative to this approach is still taking visitors to the delivery page and only then asking if they want to use their billing address.
Payment fields are tailored based on your card choice
Something that I expect more retailers to adopt over the next few years is tailoring the payment fields visitors are asked to fill in based on their card type.
ASOS does this to some degree, although I would question the need to include optional fields. If they are optional then removing them completely will mean visitors have one less decision to make before proceeding.
The ability to fully review and edit your order before placing it
As is made clear in their progress indicator, ASOS provides visitors with the extremely important facility to review all their requirements and personal information prior to placing their order.
Whereas some retailers expect visitors to place their order straight after entering their payment information, ASOS separates what are the two most crucial decisions visitors make during checkout, whilst at the same time providing the flexibility, transparency and control to make changes if required.
Flexible delivery options provided as radio options
Not only does ASOS provide a range of flexible delivery options suitable to a range of visitor requirements and budgets, it also presents these as a list of radio button options.
The alternative approach to this is for them all to be in dropdown, but the ASOS approach not only makes it instantly clear what the options are, but seeing the options next to each other allows visitors to make a more informed decision on which delivery option is best for them (and I expect many visitors end up upgrading to a more expensive delivery option for just a few more pounds).
The ability to click back without seeing security messages or losing information
Although ASOS don't provide a specific back button during checkout, once again to keep the focus on persuading visitors to complete their purchase, there will be visitors who want to go back to previous page of checkout to check or alter information.
Whereas on many e-commerce sites this can result in the user seeing security warnings and questions about whether to resend data, from what I experienced ASOS have ensured that these nasty, conversion damaging messages don't appear to their visitors.
Opportunities for further improvement
In my experience there are a number of potential refinements that ASOS could make to provide a further improved checkout experience for visitors.
- Provide greater transparency of the opt-out facility, and make this opt-in instead.
- Use descriptive progress indicators, especially on the payment page ie. change Continue to ‘Review my Order’.
- Make it clear why visitors have to provide their date of birth.
- Use more humanly worded error messages that don’t tell the visitor off.
- Provide a customer focused reason why you would like their mobile number ie. receive text alerts when your order is dispatched.
- Provide the ability to go back to the delivery/billing page when you are on the payment page – in case visitors realise they need to make a change.
What? No telephone number, anywhere?
I recognise that ASOS doesn’t provide a telephone number at all on their site. Instead it relies on people using either social media, online help pages, or an enquiry form.
I would say that as the whole browsing and buying experience has been refined to such a degree, not least through a clear focus on what the user wants, ASOS has significantly reduced the number of potential reasons why visitors would need to speak to customer services.
What this means for what may only be a very small number of visitors who require help during checkout is that they are asked to complete the customer care enquiry form.
Knowing that they have already been told on their shopping bag their items will only be reserved for one hour, seeing that response times are up to four hours isn’t going to help too much.
Although it isn’t perfect (what checkout experience is?) I will certainly start to use elements of the improved ASOS checkout when I’m demonstrating to clients a live example of checkout best practice and the steps you can take to persuade visitors to place their order.
What do you think?
As with all my articles I am really keen to hear your feedback. What you think about the ASOS checkout, or checkout in general? What other sites provide a barrier free, best practice and persuasive checkout experience?